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Late Model

& Exotics

   

1968-1969

69 GTO Judge

GTO emblem

69 GTO

This is purely a subjective observation, but when we think of late sixties styling, the GTO comes immediately to mind. Pontiac designers brought it out of the chrome and flash era of the early and mid-sixties right into the muted, "euro" theme that was to become popular in the seventies. The optional hideaway headlights screamed sixties, too.

Pontiac seemed to move the GTO more upscale as a comfy, powerful boulevard cruiser. The option list ballooned with comfort and convenience options. Many went out the door with the base 400, automatic, vinyl roof and air conditioning. It was still a potent car, but weight was up both in base form and as a result of each, on average, carrying around more optional equipment. Manual transmissions, which accounted for about 75% of GTO production in 1965, declined to just 40% in 1969.  Rest assured, however, that the performance was still there. It's just that it wasn't automatically there -- you had to go to the option list.

Today, the market recognizes this shift, as values are below those of its previous iterations. That's not to say, however, that they are weak, as these are still very desirable in the pecking order of sixties Detroit Iron. Very nice examples of an automatic, base 400 model generally fall in the 20-24,000 range for the hardtop, 38,000 plus for the convertible. Drop down a notch into the good driver category, stay away from the high profile auctions, and with a little patience you're in a hardtop at 14-15 and a convertible at 26 or so.

68 GTO interior

GTOs always have pleasant interiors, and these are no exception.  This one's a '68.

400ci V8

Largely a carryover from 1967, the base 400-4V gained 10hp for '68.  It packed some punch, but was only an average performer in an increasingly competitive segment.

The most coveted options start with, what else, more speed. The optional 400ci with Ram Air induction and the 4spd manual are very desirable. The automatic isn't a liability on the milder versions though, as it seems as many buyers today are looking for the same thing in this car as they did when new: powerful, smooth and effortless performance with a dose of civility thrown in. But these being muscle cars, naturally the more muscle the better. A 400 HO option rated at 360hp was the first tick up. Then the real action started. The Ram Air option, still rated at 360hp, got you functional ram air induction.

Mid year, it replaced by the Ram Air-II motor, still officially rated at 360hp. In '69 this became the RA-III (now rated at 366hp) and a super hot RA-IV was another step up. The RA-IV is quite rare and its 370 underrated horses can bump prices another 25-30% on the coupe and 50% on the convertible all by itself.

As it is on most cars from this era, air conditioning is a plus. By this time GM air conditioning in particular was so good it would cool your house if you hooked up some duct work!  Indeed, it seems stronger than many of today's systems. The new bench seat hurts values just a bit, as does the column shift. The buckets and console are just more in line with the GTO image.

All kinds of extras were available: tilt wheel, rallye dash, even cornering lights.  Except for the rallye dash (two versions, depending on whether you had a hood tach or not), these really don't make a measurable difference on value by themselves, but together they can bump up prices. There was also an economy engine option, 2bbl version of the 400 making 255/265hp. A few thousand were produced, but we've only seen a couple. Most likely owners installed a 4bbl intake and carb somewhere along the way.

The baddest GTO from this era is, of course, the limited production The Judge. It was added shortly after the rest of the line bowed. Not many people realize it, but The Judge was originally supposed to be a de-contented, more affordable version of the GTO with an emphasis on performance to compete with the successful, stripped down Road Runners and Super Bees from Chrysler. It didn't turn out that way, as standard equipment wasn't pared down at all and included rear spoiler, black out grille, special graphics and most importantly, the Ram Air III 400 with functioning hood scoops. A three speed manual with a  Hurst Shifter  was standard, but we've seen very few of those. At first, The Judge only came in Carousal Red (orange, really), but later it was available on any color. About 20-25% of the total run received a coat of paint other than Carousal Red.

Values on these have been moving upward at a dizzying pace as of late. Nice hardtops are pushing, and sometimes surpassing, $40,000. And then you have the Judge convertibles. Extremely rare, you probably can't touch one for under $100,000, and they've approached $200,000 at the high profile auctions. This has all happened in an almost choreograph manner over the past year. Recent advertised prices have been seen with asking prices close to $1/2 million. That's simply absurd. While we have raised our price guidelines substantially, we're going to wait just a bit more until we see more than a handful of these transactions before we put anything like those numbers in our price guide.

68-69 GTO pricing trends


With Judge prices so high, there are a lot of clones, fakes, counterfeits, etc, on the market. More are showing up all the time. Be very, very careful when buying a Judge, especially a convertible. While many honest sellers acknowledge the lack of originality, there are many dishonest ones that do not. Some may not even know they don't have the real Mccoy, as there are counterfeits out there that even experts can't discern.

Where are prices going? We're very hesitant to recommend a Judge model at the prices they've been bringing. They may have one more round increases left, but we don't see it going past that. Let's get real guys. If you step back and examine what you're really getting, it's a corporate GM intermediate with a big engine and different trim.  You can duplicate it it yourself without any extra effort--and not a whole lot of money--over a regular restoration. In fact, this entire market segment (the really big-buck muscle cars) has us a little nervous at the levels it has reached.

As for the "pedestrian" GTO's. We love 'em. So many of these were spared the scrap heap not only because they were recognized as worth holding on to, they're tough, durable cars in their own right. There's a good supply so prices have been kept sane, and when the market correction comes, they're not going to get hurt too badly. As drivers they're tough to beat. Heck you could drive one every day if you wanted -- they're smooth, quick, reliable, and pretty cheap to boot.

We just love period promotional materials. They put the cars in context in a way current photos can't hope to achieve .  These also convey the "other" GTO benefit!

Sales Channel

Supply

Availability by Sales Channel

There is a good supply of third generation GTO's available in the market.  Classifieds announce the overwhelming majority of Goats for sale, with eBay pretty strong and traditional auctions far behind.  Refreshingly, there are a lot of private offerings, too, which helps explain the large classified share.  Looking at just The Judge models, the auction share increases, mostly at the expense of classifieds.
 

Running Production Changes

1968
  • Introduced September, 1967
  • First GM car to use new polyurethane (Endura) bumber material designed to absorb minor bumps and return to its original form.
  • First GTO to offer hidden headlights
  • Named Motor Trend's Car of the Year

1969

  • Side vent windows dropped.
  • Front seats get adjustable headrests to comply with federal regulations
  • Ignition now locks and is moved to steering column in accordance with federal regulations
  • Dash now fully padded
  • Grille got more cluttered, featuring chrome horizontal strips over an eggcrate background.
  • Parking lights revised, seperate front side marker lights added
  • Rear arrow-head side marker lights replaced by a horizontal vee
  • New, block letter GTO emblem on fenders behind front wheels
  • Tailights moved above rear bumper
  • Ram Air IV GTO engines got even more exciting in 1969 with the introduction of the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV. Considerably under-rated at 370 horsepower, the Ram Air IV was the pinnacle of GTO engines. The RA IV used many of the high-performance parts introduced on the '68 Ram Air II along with the cold air induction system that came with the Ram Air III. Both RA III and RA IV used driver-controlled flapper doors on the twin hood scoops. As powerful as the Ram Air IV was, it still used hydraulic lifters and was far more tractable in traffic than competitors' solid lifter engines. The RA IV didn't overheat or foul spark plugs. It was only available with either a 3.90:1 or 4.33:1 limited-slip differential.
  • December, 1968. The Judge introduced

1968-69 GTO Production Total

1968 Total Code Body Sub-Total
87,684

37

67

2-door Hardtop

Convertible

77,704

9,980

1969 Total Code Body Sub-Total
72,287

37

37

67

67

2-door Hardtop

Judge 2-door Hardtop

Convertible

Judge Convertible

 

58,126

6,725

7,328

108